School of Biological Sciences

Meet our students

Learn more about why current and past students of the School of Biological Sciences chose to study with us, and what their hopes for the future are.

Amy Joy Pulou Maslen-Miller-300px

Amy Joy Pulou Maslen-Miller, Postgraduate Diploma in Biological Sciences

I am a New Zealand-born Samoan. I have a BSc in Biological Sciences, and after finishing my PGDip, plan to do my masters in plant pathology. I’d like to look at significant crops in Samoa and research the different pathogens that affect them.


What I like about science is knowing how things work – the many molecular process that occur in plants are really mind-blowing! – and getting the opportunity to pursue research whose results can influence society. It is really exciting that scientific research may be able to cure cancer or find better ways to increase sustainability in developing countries.


Over the summer holidays, I was involved in a Landcare project looking at the origin of fungal communities associated with pohutukawa in the Pacific, which involved many analyses of fungal DNA.  My time at Landcare showed me how science can be applied to real-life situations, and provided experience in the type of work I can see myself doing in future.


When I started at university, the support programme for Māori and Pacific students, Tuākana, was a big help. The friendly and welcoming environment at Tuākana helped me come out of my shell. It also helped me to understand how I learn and what works for me – such as drawing diagrams and talking about concepts aloud. Without Tuākana, I wouldn't have gained my degree. I decided to give back by becoming a tutor for SBS Tuākana and am currently co-coordinating the programme.

To do well at university, you need to know that it’s not how smart you are – it’s about how hard you’re prepared to work, and how well you’re able to recover when knocked down. I was not the brightest in the class at high school, but when I came to university I worked really hard. There were tough times where my results were not what I had hoped for, but I turned to the Tuākana programme for support, as well as family, and pushed on to do well.


Meet our students Peter Van Kampen-300px

Peter Van Kampen, BSc in Marine Science

I’m of Ngai Tai, Whakatōhea, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Kahungunu and Tūhoe whakapapa, and I’m in my third and final year of my BSc.

A fascination with nature and a strong affiliation to water led me to marine science.  Commercial seafood production is vital to New Zealand, and we need to produce marine scientists, Māori marine scientists in particular. Despite Māori owning or controlling more than 40% of New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry, there are relatively few Māori with tertiary marine-science qualifications in the field.

Once I complete my BSc, I hope to do an MSc. Ultimately I want to own or manage an aquaculture facility and consultancy business.

The Tuākana programme helped guide my journey as a student.  The academic and professional skills fostered by the programme encourage students to better equip themselves for life during and after university.  While the Tuākana programme is primarily aimed at mitigating the difference in grades between Māori and Pacific students and other groups of students, it provides an environment that encourages Māori and Pacific Island students to succeed. I am now co-coordinating the Tuākana programme for SBS.

In general, if you want to be successful at university there are a few key attributes you need to develop. Time managment is one – at university, there is no one supervising you but yourself.  You need to make new friends in your courses  – university is a lonely place if you choose not to make new friends. New-found friends will support you and are very likely to be your colleagues in future.

Make yourself known to lecturers. Talk to them, seek help, be polite and build a good rapport. Never be scared or ashamed to ask for help. The university has awesome support services.



Jessica Rodrigues

When I started out a Bachelor of Technology (Biotechnology) degree, I had no idea where it would take me. I knew I enjoyed science, biology in particular, and wanted to end up with a job that was engaging and stimulating. After a few years of course work and two summer studentships at the School of Biological Sciences, I realized that I enjoyed molecular biology and genetics and began to aspire to a career in research. I undertook my BTech Honours in the laboratory with a study that explored variability in phenotype within and among yeast species. This left me with an appreciation of how versatile and diverse micro-organisms are. Upon completing my degree, I forayed into plant genomics with a summer studentship at HortResearch (now Plant and Food Research). Plants were another model I really enjoyed working with and I relished all the genetics. The latter soon led me to a research technician’s post at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. My project on the effect of specific pigmentation genes on mouse body weight has been both edifying and gratifying, with the work experience contributing greatly to my professional development. I now feel prepared to tackle a doctoral degree and hope to obtain a Ph.D. in Plant Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. I choose plant genetics not only because I find the work exciting but also because I think that it has a lot of scope for addressing some of the world’s many problems. Eventually, I hope to be in a position to conduct my own application-based research in the area of plant and microbial genetics; in the mean time, I am having lots of fun on the way!


Mel Collings

When I first started at the University, it was so big, I felt like just another face in the crowd. It wasn’t until I became involved in the Tuākana Programme that I felt like I had somewhere to belong; I felt like there was a community, that I belonged to that community, and that that community had knowledge and support to offer. To me, this made the difference between quitting and the successful completion of my degree. Because of this support and achievement, I was then offered a University of Auckland Masters/Honours Scholarship and a Summer Internship, starting me on the path to post-graduate study. After finishing my Honours year, I starting working as a Research Technician, then quit to move to London, and spend two years travelling around Europe. Whilst there, I also worked at GlaxoSmithKline, in Regulatory Affairs. Eventually, I moved back to Auckland, to do a PhD in Molecular Biology. My earlier academic successes meant that I was able to achieve a Tuāpapa Putaiao Māori Fellowship from FRST, and The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship. Throughout my PhD, I was involved with the Tuākana Programme; again, it was the community and sense of belonging that gave me the stability and support, either as a tuākana or as a teina, which I wanted and needed to succeed. I completed my PhD, and now work at The University of Auckland. The Tuākana Program at SBS is fantastic; if you are looking to succeed, I highly recommend you get involved.


Ghader Bashiri

While I was doing my Masters degree in Biochemistry back in Iran, I read a book entitled “Introduction to Protein Structure” by Carl Branden and John Tooze. The book was so intriguing that I decided to pursue a career in protein crystallography; three years later I started my PhD in the Structural Biology Laboratory at The University of Auckland. I have since become fascinated by proteins and the detail of their three-dimensional structures; you can “see” the protein and probe its function at the molecular and even the atomic level!

I have been working on the structural and functional characterization of proteins from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB). In the Structural Biology Laboratory we use different biochemical and biophysical methods to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins from Mtb so we can understand how these proteins function. We hope that our research will help in designing new therapeutics against TB which currently kills almost 2 million people each year worldwide.

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Josie Galbraith


I have always been fascinated by the natural world, by things that crawl, fly and walk, and how they interact with their environment. It is this curiosity and passion that has shaped my broad research interests in the field of ecology and encouraged my decision to continue into post-graduate studies in Biological Sciences at The University of Auckland.

I have recently completed an MSc in Biosecurity, studying the ecology and impact of an introduced parrot, the eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius), focusing specifically on competition with native species for cavity nest sites, the capacity for rosella to act as reservoirs of disease, and factors affecting rosella detection during surveys.

This research, along with post-graduate classes, has equipped me with a sound knowledge of ecological theory and a broad set of practical field skills. It has also provided the opportunity to refine my scientific writing skills, and share my research with the wider community through public talks. Together these skills are a strong foundation for my future research endeavours.